The Miami Dolphins were given up for dead at 1-4, and rightly so, given the club’s recent track record. It was last rites for all the wrongs just five short weeks ago as beleaguered fans resigned themselves and dug in for yet another desolate winter.
Now the same franchise that has been spinning wheels and disappointing South Florida for most of this century — a literal truth considering the team’s last playoff victory came in the 2000 season — suddenly is one of the hottest teams in the NFL and the most exciting thing in town.
Sunday’s fourth consecutive victory, the team’s longest winning streak since 2008, is stunning, impressive and also exquisitely well-timed as we look around.
The post-Wade and Bosh Heat have staggered to a 2-6 start with four losses in a row and have shrunk to become NBA also-rans.
The Panthers, for all of their big offseason and Stanley Cup talk, are idling just below .500 and off playoff pace one-fifth into the NHL season.
The football Hurricanes, thanks to that four-game October swoon, likely are headed for a second-tier bowl game. (One projection guessed the Belk Bowl. Note to self: Look up whatever the heck a “Belk” is).
UM men’s basketball is rebuilding and was projected ninth in the 15-team ACC.
The Marlins, of course, recently lost their ace pitcher in a tragic, fatal boating accident.
So, improbable as it is, it’s the Dolphins to the rescue!
If you would allow me, I would even expand the scope beyond sports and note that no region in our state more than South Florida was left heartsick by last week’s presidential election, considering Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by 577,775 votes, or 32.8 percent, in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
Chances are, then, the Dolphins’ surge might be a timely and most-welcome lifting of spirits from that vantage, too.
The climb to a playoff spot remains arduous. Miami today sits seventh in the jockeying for six AFC spots and still is two wins behind the wild-card leaders. The makenflplayoffs.com computers put the Fins’ postseason shot at 36.3 percent.
I’m not shouting Super Bowl and cranking up that corny Dolphins fight song or anything. But four wins in a row tastes like steak and lobster if you’re a starving fan, and hope has turned from a faint breath to a dragon’s fire. With the next two games at the 4-5 Rams this week and then home against the 1-8 49ers, Miami growing its winning streak to six games and its record to 7-4 does not seem the least bit preposterous.
Only two NFL teams (Cowboys with eight and Chiefs with five) have longer win streaks than Miami right now. Sunday in San Diego marked the club’s first road win in an entire calendar year. The Dolphins have scored at least 27 points in four straight games, something last accomplished in 2009. Not since 2012 had they last gone four games in a row not committing a turnover.
Ryan Tannehill’s passer rating is up to 91.3, he’s sixth in the league in yards per attempt, and, if you want to insist he has been pigeonholed as a “game manager” type, I might mention he leads the league with six games with a completion of at least 50 yards. (His 39-yard end-zone strike to Kenny Stills on Sunday was as splendid a pass as I have seen him throw).
Out-of-nowhere Jay Ajayi is now sixth in the league with 725 rushing yards, his 5.7 average per carry leading everybody, his eight runs of 30-plus tied for first.
But wasn’t it defense grabbing Sunday’s game by the neck? Cam Wake is playing at a Pro Bowl level, so is Ndamukong Suh, and the cornerbacks intercepted Philip Rivers four times in the fourth quarter.
Teetering games the Dolphins used to lose they are now seizing with force … and with resourceful variety.
Look at the memorable plays in this four game streak:
A 62-yard Ajayi touchdown run punctuated the win over the Steelers. A 66-yard Tannehill-Stills TD pass beat the Bills. Kenyan Drake’s 96-yard kickoff return beat the Jets. Then Sunday, Kiko Alonso’s 60-yard interception-return score won in San Diego.
Dolfans for too long used to dread what will go wrong next, who’ll screw up next. Now those same fans are wondering what will go right next, and who the next hero might be.